Friday, July 9, 2010

Former Congressman Pleads Guilty to Obstructing Justice, Acting as Unregistered Foreign Agent

The United States Attorney's Office for the Western District of Missouri has issued a press release stating that a former congressman and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations has pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and to acting as an unregistered foreign agent related to his work for an Islamic charity with ties to international terrorism.

According to the press release:

Mark Deli Siljander, 59, of Great Falls, Va., pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Nanette K. Laughrey to one charge contained in an Oct. 21, 2008, federal indictment, and an additional charge filed today, involving his work for the Islamic American Relief Agency (IARA) of Columbia, Mo. Siljander was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Michigan and was a U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations General Assembly.

Co-defendant Abdel Azim El-Siddig, of Chicago, Ill., a former IARA fundraiser, also pleaded guilty today to conspiring with Siljander and others to hire Siljander to lobby for IARA’s removal from a Senate Finance Committee list of charities suspected of having terrorist ties, while concealing this advocacy and not registering with the proper authorities.

“A former congressman engaged in illegal lobbying for a charity suspected of funding international terrorism. He then used his own charities to hide the payments for his criminal activities,” U.S. Attorney Phillips said. “Siljander repeatedly lied to FBI agents and prosecutors investigating serious crimes related to national security. With today’s guilty pleas, all of the defendants in this case have admitted their guilt and will be held accountable for their actions.”

Siljander operated a Washington, D.C., consulting business called Global Strategies, Inc. IARA was an Islamic charity in Columbia, Mo., that served as the U.S. office of an international organization headquartered in Khartoum, Sudan. IARA was closed in October 2004, after being identified by the U.S. Treasury Department as a specially designated global terrorist organization, for the support its international offices provided to Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda, and the Taliban. The executive director of IARA, co-defendant Mubarak Hamed, 53, of Columbia, a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Sudan, has pleaded guilty in connection with this case.

According to today’s plea agreements, between March and May 2004, Hamed and El-Siddig hired Siljander to lobby for IARA’s removal from a U.S. Senate Finance Committee list of charities suspected of funding international terrorism, and its reinstatement as an approved government contractor. IARA lost its status as an approved government contractor in 1999, when the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) terminated grants for two relief projects in Mali, Africa. USAID informed the organization that the grants were not in the national security interest of the United States.

Siljander, El-Siddig, and Hamed each knew that IARA was part of a large international organization controlled by its headquarters in Khartoum, Sudan, and agreed with each other to conceal Siljander’s efforts on IARA’s behalf. In order to do so, Siljander instructed El-Siddig and Hamed to transfer $75,000 of IARA’s funds to him by funnelling them through non-profit entities. El-Siddig carried at least three checks issued to Siljander’s charities from Chicago to Washington, D.C., and gave them to Siljander.

In exchange for the payments, during the Summer of 2004, Siljander acted as an agent for IARA by contacting persons at the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, USAID, the Department of Justice and the Department of the Army, in an effort to have IARA removed from the USAID list of debarred entities, and to remove IARA from the Senate Finance Committee’s list of charities suspected of funding terrorism. Federal law requires anyone who serves as an agent of a foreign entity, including an organization, to register with the U.S. Attorney General.

In pleading guilty, Siljander admitted that in two separate interviews he repeatedly lied to FBI agents and prosecutors acting on behalf of a federal grand jury. Siljander obstructed justice by falsely denying that he was hired to advocate for IARA, and by falsely claiming that the payments from IARA were charitable donations intended to assist him in writing a book about bridging the gap between Islam and Christianity.

Under federal statutes, Siljander is subject to a sentence of up to 15 years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine of up to $500,000. El-Siddig is subject to a sentence of up to five years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine of up to $250,000. Sentencing hearings will be scheduled after the completion of presentence investigations by the U.S. Probation Office.

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